Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Spotlight on Hunger: WYCD Interviews the Ottawa Food Bank, in Ontario Canada.

This holiday season, What You Can Do is teaming up with Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen to help raise awareness and fight hunger in New York City. As 1 in every 5 New Yorkers face hunger, Holy Apostles plays a crucial role in providing food, support and hope to people in need.  

The What You Can Do team is based in New York, so we have the opportunity to collaborate with many organizations inspiring change throughout our city. Since fans watch What You Can Do from around the world, we thought this holiday season would be a good time to highlight different perspectives on hunger. More than 49 million Americans face hunger today, with over 15 million of that number being children. 

We interviewed representatives from food banks and hunger organizations across the country and in Canada, asking about involvement in their communities, services they offer, trends they are seeing in their communities etc. 

Our fourth spotlight is on the Ottawa Food Bank, a hunger relief organization based out of Ottawa, Ontario in Canada.   

An interview with Samantha Ingram, Communications Coordinator for the Ottawa Food Bank.

WYCD:  Please tell us a little about your organization and the community that you serve.

The Ottawa Food Bank is the central warehouse and distribution centre that fundraises and food raises to provide food for 140 community food banks through the Ottawa community. Through those community food banks we feed, on average, 48,000 people per month – 37 per cent of whom are children.

The community food banks range from large downtown shelters to small church basement food banks. They also range from grocery hamper programs to soup kitchen type formats. 

WYCD:  How long have you been in operation?

The Ottawa Food Bank began in May of 1984. This coming year is our 30th anniversary. It’s bittersweet that we’ve been around this long – when food banks first began, it was believed they would only have to be a temporary measure. 30 years later, the need for food support is higher than ever, and it appears to continue to rise.

WYCD:  What types of services do you provide to your community?

The Ottawa Food Bank’s service is food (and other grocery products). We provide food to those in need in our community. We do have a number of programs within this to ensure people receive what they need.
  • Our Community Harvest program is our main source of fruits and vegetables. We partner with local farmers who donate their produce or their land, and we help with the harvest.
  • Our KickStart and After 4 program is how we get food to school aged children in schools during the school year, or through summer day camps when school is out of session.
  • Food Aid is our program to provide ground beef to people. We are one of two food banks in Canada who offer this. We fundraise so we can purchase local beef.
  • Our Baby Supply Cupboard is our program where we ensure we have the necessary supplies (diapers, wipes, bottles, formula, etc) for mothers and fathers who need a helping hand.
For more programs, please take a look at our website.

WYCD:  Have the overall numbers of visitors changed in the last few years?

I’m unsure of the 2013 numbers, but in 2012 the need for food support in Ottawa went up approximately 5 per cent.

WYCD:  Has the demographic of your visitors changed over the last several years?
(Are you seeing an increase in certain age groups, races, economic status, genders or the marital status of people needing your services?)

Our largest demographic is single-parent families and the working poor. This has been our largest demographic for quite a while. These people try their very hardest, but at the end of the month it is difficult to stretch their pay cheque. Once all the bills are paid, groceries tend to be put on the back burner. The Ottawa Food Bank is here to help them make ends meet when they fall on hard times.

WYCD:  What are the most prevalent issues in your community, and do you feel that this reflects the current trends around the region?

The need for food support in Ottawa does reflect that of the country. Food Banks Canada puts out a report every year that breaks down the need for food across the country. If you wish to look into it, it is called the Hunger Count Report.

WYCD:  If you have volunteers, are you finding more people involved in helping out, and does it fluctuate throughout the year?

We have a wonderful community of volunteers – approximately 3,000 people helped us last year. That equated to the number of work hours of 12 full time staff members. Without our volunteers we would not be able to do what we do.

The interest of people volunteering definitely rises during the holiday season (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year) and it falls a bit in the summer.

WYCD:  Do you have special requests for the types of food/meals that you provide?

We appreciate all donations, but we really do try to encourage our donors to make healthy decisions. Opt for whole wheat, low sodium, etc options when giving non-perishable donations.

WYCD:  What are easy ways that your community can help out your organization even if they only have one minute of time to give? What if they have one hour to give?

With one minute you can easily make a secure donation online, or text to donate! Text “Hungry” to 45678 to make a one-time $5 donation. At the Ottawa Food Bank we can make your dollar go far. We can turn $1 donated into $5 worth of food; we have excellent food industry partners, bulk purchasing power, and great operational efficiencies that make that possible.

If they have an hour or more, email us at volunteer@ottawafoodbank.ca and see what opportunities we have. Or keep an eye on our online volunteer tool for events where we need volunteers. You can register and sign up online!

We want to send many thanks to the Ottawa food bank for sharing their insight on hunger in the Ottawa region with us. As we strive to end hunger as a global community, they showed us how cities in the U.S. and across the border face a rising need for food support. By finding ways to take action, one minute at a time, we can help erase hunger in our neighborhoods and around the world.

If you want to learn more about their work, you can visit the Ottawa Food Bank website at:

If you want to learn more about Holy Apostles in New York City, you can visit their website at:

To join What You Can Do in the mission to help change the world, one minute at a time,
please visit us at:

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